12m Class Prepared to Throw Around its Weight at 169th Annual Regatta

Newport, R.I. — By weight, the 12 Metre Modern class might be the biggest one-design fleet at the 169th New York Yacht Club Annual Regatta, which kicks off this Friday off Newport, R.I. While just four boats are expected to race in this edition of North America’s oldest annual regatta, they pack quite a punch on the scale, coming in at somewhere around 30 to 35 tons apiece. For reference, the five-year-old IC37 design, of which 14 are racing in the Annual Regatta, weighs roughly one-tenth as much.

And then there’s the metaphorical impact a competitive fleet of 12-Metre yachts can have on a regatta. While the America’s Cup has moved on to foiling monohulls capable of 50 knots, the 12 Metres remain one of the most recognizable representations of sailing’s greatest competition, particularly in Newport where former Cup competitors can be found doing sunset cruises, harbor tours and casual races most days of the summer. Each 12 Metre built since in the last 70 years carries an indelible connection to the America’s Cup.

“I use the word ‘majestic’ to describe them,” says former America’s Cup tactician Andy Rose, who has chartered Defender (US-33) for the Annual Regatta. “The America’s Cup was a huge part of my life, a life-changing experience. It was on 12 Metres, and I fell in love with the boats. They’re big, heavy beasts, but when you sail them well, it’s a thrill. To have all those boats on the starting line, it’s just fabulous.”

The New York Yacht Club’s Annual Regatta was first sailed on the Hudson River on July 16 and 18, 1846. A similar competition the previous year was called a Trial of Speed. With a few exceptions for world wars and other global crises, the event has been held every year since. For the majority of its existence, the Annual Regatta was raced on waters close to New York City. Since 1988, however, the event has been sailed out of the Harbour Court clubhouse in Newport, R.I., and, in 2004, it settled into the current three-day format, which includes a race around Conanicut Island on Friday, two days of buoy or navigator-course racing on Saturday and Sunday and nightly social activities on the grounds of the historic Harbour Court mansion. The 169th Annual Regatta is sponsored by Hammetts Hotel and Helly Hansen.

Preliminary Scratch Sheet for 169th Annual Regatta

Rose is a member of the New York Yacht Club, but he hails from the West Coast, where he regularly races his 50-footer It’s OK. He’s bringing much of his crew from that program east for the Annual Regatta. Some are 12-Metre veterans. Others are younger sailors who will be racing aboard a 12 for the first time. Passing along to the next generation of sailors an appreciation for the sport’s history is a joy for Rose.

“I’ve taken, over the years, a lot of young guys on my boats to the various America’s Cup Hall of Fame inductions because I want them to understand what an amazing sport this is and that they’re following in the footsteps of a heck of a lot of people over a heck of a lot of years,” he says. “[Bringing my team to the Annual Regatta] is worth it when you get a young person, and they step down onto a 12 Metre for the first time and look up. The expression is worth every penny.”

And lest you think that Rose is a singular aging sailor looking to relive his glory days, consider that his 12-Metre team is perhaps the least “powered-up” of the four competing in the Modern class (another four 12 Metres will sail in the Traditional 12 Metre Division). Takashi Okura, who is often found sailing his 52-foot Sled on the European SuperSeries circuit, will be skippering Freedom. His crew includes numerous Cup veterans, including Murray Jones, Don Cowie, Adam Beashel and 1983 America’s Cup winner Grant Simmer.

Enterprise, which Rose describes as the best 12 Metre never to race for the America’s Cup, will be skippered by Peter Askew with a crew that includes former world match racing champion Taylor Canfield and Volvo Ocean Race winner Richard Clarke. Courageous, which won the America’s Cup in 1974 and 1977, will compete with former Rolex Yachtsmen of the Year Gary Jobson and Jud Smith.

Rose hopes his crew’s youthful enthusiasm and raw talent will help level the playing field against teams overflowing with 12 Metre experience.

“You start with good sailors,” says Rose, noting that he’s got a few world champions on his team. “It’s amazing how quickly they take to it. It’s still a boat with a jib, a main and a spinnaker. The starts are different because there are big, heavy boats, but I’ve done a lot of that, so I’m not scared of it, and neither are they.

“Boat speed is very important in these boats. What we showed in 2019, when the boat was set up poorly, is we’re fast in light air. We’re working on trying to get our speed more competitive in more wind.”

The Annual Regatta is just the start of a momentous two months for the 12 Metre class. The class will hold its pre-worlds during the Newport Regatta in early July and the 2023 12 Metre World Championship will take place off Newport July 30 to August 5. Upwards of 10 boats, spanning the 100-plus-year history of the class, are expected to compete in the world championship.

Longtime Partners Return to Support Club’s Expansive 2023 Regatta Season

Sailors know that bringing their respective “A” game to a New York Yacht Club regatta is the only path to victory. For nearly two centuries, the Club has set a high standard for sailing achievement and matched that with the quality of its events. Of course, nothing good comes easily or cheap. Corporate partnerships are a crucial part of keeping regatta costs reasonable while ensuring the best possible experience for all competitors.

In September, the Club will host the eighth edition of the Rolex New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, sailing’s premiere Corinthian big-boat competition. This event, which brings teams from around the globe to Newport and is broadcast live over the internet, is a resource-heavy regatta. It’s only through the amazing support of Rolex that this event continues to redefine what it means to host a top-flight invitational event.

In addition to longtime partner Rolex, the New York Yacht Club Regatta Association is pleased to welcome back Helly Hansen, Safe Harbor Marinas and Hammetts Hotel as regatta partners. The support of these three marine industry stalwarts is crucial when it comes to creating the inimitable experience that is a New York Yacht Club Regatta.

“Any successful big-boat sailor knows the value of a team where everyone is pulling in the same direction,” says Regatta Association president Jim Wilson. “That is just as true off the water. We strive to lift our game each year and set a standard against which other regattas are measured. We and the competitors know that wouldn’t be possible without the generous support of Rolex and our three regatta partners, Helly Hansen, Safe Harbor Marinas and Hammetts Hotel.”

The 2023 regatta season is the busiest in the history of the New York Yacht Club with 17 regattas scheduled from late April through early October.

Photos: Daniel Forster Photography, ROLEX/Daniel Forster, Stuart Streuli

Jeanneau JY60
TMG-LAGOON-600×500-optimized
Race Yachts
West Systems
Jeanneau JY55
TMG-LAGOON-600×500-optimized
MultiHull-Central-HH44
West Systems